X is the New Y!: Product Succession

“Cycling is the new golf” proclaimed The Economist in an April 2013 article, which caused me to go dig up an older series of articles that began in 2006 stating, “Is World of Warcraft the New Golf?”  Maybe we should just state that video games are the new golf, since this 2010 article stated, “Halo – It’s the New Golf” and outlined how the BBC had a team that was issuing open challenges.

Edgerton's text covers how mature, established products show persistence and resilience in the face of innovation.

Edgerton’s text covers how mature, established products show persistence and resilience in the face of innovation.

I’m skeptical of any article where the lede is “X is the New Y”, but they are fascinating because it stimulates discussion about product and material succession.  As Prof. David Edgerton explains in his book, “The Shock of the Old,” Y tends to be more resilient than we expect.  Rifles remain more lethal than bombs and bicycles rack up more transport miles than airplanes and cars.

The US housing boom financed a huge growth in the number of golf courses in the US – over 3,000 new courses were built between 1990 and 2005, representing over 20% of the golf course inventory in 2005.

“Golf was so dramatically overbuilt in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s that I believe we’ll continue to see a conversion of older public courses to residential,” Boud [an Irvine based real estate consultant] says.

Peak Golf

Somewhere in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s that combination of low interest rates fueled a housing and golf course building boom.  Good times and high household earnings made spending a 5 hour round using brand new carbon fiber golf clubs an easy thing to do.  Since that time, every golf metric has moved the other way – there are 4 million fewer people who consider themselves golfers (14% decline since ’05), fewer than 16,000 courses (2% decline since ’05) and most importantly fewer than 465 million rounds played per year (7.5% decline since 2005 and 11% decline since 2000).

Golf was at the top – Peak Golf was inevitable.  X is the new Y and X is the new Golf, because Golf had nowhere to go but down.

Golf courses, golf players and rounds per year have been on a steady decline.

Golf courses, golf players and rounds per year have been on a steady decline.

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